The North Carolina Senate has just released its $22.9 billion budget plan for fiscal years 2017-2019. The Senate proposed spending $5.2 billion of that total on all Health and Human Services (HHS) functions.

This legislative session, lawmakers are using the budget as a vehicle to drive big policy issues. Under HHS, that big policy issue is Certificate of Need, a law in which hospitals and other medical providers must ask the state permission to expand patient services, construct new facilities, or update major medical equipment.

Buried in the special provisions section of the budget are six pages of language that call for a complete phase-out of the law’s 25 regulated services and facilities by 2025, along with recommended reforms in the interim. For example, exempting physicians from the law’s lengthy review process would make it easier for them to engage in a joint venture with a local hospital to operate a surgery center or to invest in one on their own. Community hospitals with fewer than 200 beds would be freed from filling out costly applications to purchase another MRI machine. Ophthalmologists could finally perform glaucoma and cataract surgery for Medicare patients in their in-office surgical suites and get paid a facility fee – a much more cost-effective option for patients.

Why, then, is there a “need” for CON? Not having CON certainly has the potential to lower health care costs and bring better technology to patients living in rural areas of the state.

Read more from the latest Health Care Update here.